The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a case that could affect how federal courts apply statutes of limitations to cases involving group disability plan benefits decisions.
Julie Heimeshoff, the appellant in the case Heimeshoff vs. Hartford Life and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Case Number 12-729), worked in public relations at Wal-Mart. In August 2005, she filed a group long-term disability (LTD) insurance claim, saying that she was unable to work due to lupus and due to pain from fibromyalgia.
Hartford Life, a unit of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE:HIG), denied the claim in November 2006. Heimeshoff appealed in September 2007, and she said Hartford again denied the claim in November 2007, according to court documents.
Heimeshoff filed a suit against her employer and the insurer in November 2010 in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut.
Hartford Life said the LTD policy required Heimeshoff to file her suit under a Connecticut statute of limitations that required her to began any legal actions within three years after the date when she was supposed to give the company proof of her loss, rather than three after the date when the claim accrued.
Heimeshoff argued that the statute of limitations argument should not apply because Hartford Life was basing the argument on a time limit document — the policy — that was not part of the complaint. Hartford Life contended that it could refer to the policy in the motion to dismiss the suit because Heimeshoff had included the policy in her complaint.
Heimeshoff also argued that Hartford Life should have explained the time limits for filing a civil action in its denial-of-benefits letters.
The district court ruled in favor Hartford Life and Wal-Mart and dismissed the suit in January 2012.